De Stad


How can a global city run out of water?
This event is in English
Tuesday 13 Feb 2018, 20.00
di 13 feb 2018, 20.00
IJ Zaal

It is forbidden to wash cars, spray the lawn or fill the pool with drinking water. Farmers have to reduce their water consumption by 60 percent and citizens are not allowed to use more than 50 liters per day per person from the 1st of February (in the Netherlands the average use is 119 liters per person). Cape Town, the capital of South Africa, has announced severe water restrictions as the city, home to 4 million, is in the midst of the worst drought to hit South Africa in more than 100 years. Officials even started to count down to Day Zero, the day that the water supply could run dry, predicted to be April 12th. How can a global city run out of water?

Cape Town
© Duncan Rawlinson

The point of no return

A point of no return, thats how the Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille announced the new water restrictions as officials warn the water supply could run dry in three months. After three years of continuous drought, the South African city of Cape Town has less than 90 days worth of water in its reservoirs, putting it on track to be the first major city in the world to run out of water. The city council led by mayor Patricia de Lille is accused of not anticipating the drought in time. Since the construction of the dams at the end of the 19th century, the city has been completely dependent on the water reservoirs, which were usually richly filled by winter rains.

To avoid Day Zero, the city has reduced water pressure and banned residents from watering gardens and washing cars. Most public swimming pools are closed, and the city resorted in February to shaming the top 100 water consumers by releasing their identities to the public.

From blooming city to looming drought

Cape Town, with its idyllic location on the ocean and at the foot of Table Mountain, saw the number of inhabitants double to over 4 million in 20 years. Every year, 2 million tourists use a relatively large amount of water. And then there are the vineyards and the many fruit and vegetable companies around the city that depend on the same water. The harvest is expected to fail in large parts around the city if there is no solution to bridge the period until the rainy season – usually from June onwards.

Awaiting Water

We start the programme with the documentary Awaiting Water (2017). In February of 2017 Dutch environmental-sciences student Sanne travelled to South Africa to find out how the drought was impacting people. She interviewed farmers to ask them about the impact of the drought and the role of water in their lives. The farmers openly told their personal stories that show not only the gravity of the drought, but also the complexity of the South African society.


This event is in English
Tuesday 13 Feb 2018, 20.00
IJ Zaal
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